International News - Issue 237

UEFA Champions League Draw

The Champions League last-16 draw has unfolded and brought us some interesting ties, most of all Manchester City against Barcelona. Both teams met at the same stage last season as Barcelona easily progressed against the English champions. Real Madrid, meanwhile, take on Schalke again and will be keen to become the first champions since the inception of the new format to defend their title. Los Blancos were the only team to have a 100 percent group stage record, winning all their six games. Overall, La Liga still has three teams in the competition and all of them topped their respective group. The German Bundesliga has four teams going into the last-16, while the English Premier League has three. Uefa held the draw in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday.  The first leg will be played on 17/18 February, with the return duel set for 24/25 February.

Draw results:
Schalke vs Real Madrid
Man City vs Barcelona
Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea
Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid
Juventus vs Dormund
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Bayern Munich
Arsenal vs Monaco
FC Basel vs FC Porto

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes the 3-0 scoreline flattered Manchester United and the Merseysiders deserved something from the game. Goals from Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie handed the Red Devils a sixth consecutive League win, though the Reds created numerous chances, only to be denied by the brilliance of David de Gea. Rogers was naturally disappointed by the result, but was motivated by the performance of the team.

Real Madrid won their 20th match in a row on Friday night when they beat Almeira 4-1 in La Liga.
Los Meringues had been near unstoppable this season, but were well below their best in the opening exchanges at the Estadio de los Juegos MediterrĂ¡neos. The result sees Real four points clear at the top of the standings.

Real Madrid will head to Morocco this week targeting a maiden Fifa Club World Cup triumph. Los Meringues have won three Intercontinental Cups down the years, but have never lifted it under its current guise, which came into effect nine years ago. But Real will be confident of breaking that duck though, especially given their amazing run of form which has seen them win 19 games on the trot. Left-back Marcelo stated that every player is desperate to add more silverware to their collection.

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart is poised to sign a new lucrative five-year contract with the English champions.
Hart, whose existing deal expires in June 2016, will see his weekly wages rise to €152,000, according to reports. The 27-year-old joined City from Shrewsbury for £600,000 in 2006.

Gervinho: My Arsenal experience has left me ‘hating’ Gunners and Arsene Wenger. Former
Arsenal man Gervinho has hit out at Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, claiming his poor treatment has left him ‘hating’ the club. The Ivorian forward, who now plays for Serie A side Roma, quit Arsenal in 2013 after just two years at the Emirates. During his time at the club, Gervinho made 63 appearances but has slammed the way he was treated by Wenger. “He [Wenger] never had confidence in me. [Roma coach Rudi Garcia] doesn’t differentiate between those who are playing and those who aren’t playing. That’s important for a player,” Gervinho said. “He doesn’t only speak to those who are playing, he talks to everyone as there are 25 players in the squad, not just 11. As a child, I dreamed of playing for Arsenal because I loved them. Now I hate them for the way Wenger treated me. However, I regretted leaving the club after such a short time without being able to show my worth, which I’m now doing at Roma instead.”

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said he would be "p***** off" if he was forced to rotate the number one jersey like Iker Casillas has had to over the past two years. Long-serving Real Madrid keeper Casillas was demoted to the bench by Diego Lopez in La Liga but returned to favour with the latter's departure to AC Milan in August. However, calls are rising for Casillas to step aside to allow summer signing Keylor Navas - who shone for Levante last term and for Costa Rica at the World Cup - a chance between the sticks.

Roma insist Manchester United-target Kevin Strootman is not for sale. United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal is believed to rate his compatriot highly, with the Red Devils previously courting Strootman prior to his £15.6million move to the Giallorossi in July 2013. However, Roma general manager Mauro Baldissoni maintains the 24-year-old midfielder is staying in the Eternal City. Strootman is making his way back from a serious knee injury, and was an unused substitute in Roma's 2-0 home defeat to English champions Manchester City in the Champions League last night.

Brazil legend Ronaldo believes Cristiano Ronaldo is a clear favourite to win the Ballon d'Or this year due to his "unthinkable" achievements. Cristiano is the bookmakers' favourite to land the prize for the third time after he won in 2008 and 2013, with Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer the two other players shortlisted. The Real Madrid goal machine scored a record 17 UEFA Champions League goals as Madrid won a 10th European Cup last May, and has bagged 25 goals in his first 14 La Liga games this season.

German attacker Andre Schurrle has laughed off suggestions he could leave Chelsea in January. The midfielder, who penned a five-year deal with the Blues from Bayer Leverkusen in June 2013, has been a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge of late, with illness hampering his progress. However, the £18m signing reasserted his worth with a goal in a 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon last week, and he insists he is loving life in west London. "I can just laugh all the talk of leaving off. I am not going to change the club in the transfer window," Schurrle said. "I am happy where I am, I am happy in London. I love the city, I love the fans. We have a great team and want to win something this season. This is where I belong and where I want to help. I know what the manager wants for me and that he likes me."

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has revealed he came under particular scrutiny when being tested for doping along with four teammates last Monday morning. Officers from AETSAD (Spanish Agency for Protection of Health in Sport), who work in conjunction with Uefa, conducted tests on Messi, Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo and Jordi Alba ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain. Messi later wrote on his Instagram account: “Doping control. Of the five chosen, I was the only one who had to give urine and blood samples... bit strange isn’t it?" Messi has scored 13 goals in 15 league outings this season, while he has netted seven times in five Champions League appearances.

Andy Carroll sees no reason why West Ham can't maintain their surprise challenge for the
Premier League title. The Hammers have never won England's topflight and finished a lowly 13th last term. However, the club is currently fourth on the table with 28 points from 16 games - 11 points behind leaders Chelsea. "I think there is no limit, we can go all the way to the top," said Carroll. "We have a great squad and I can't say we are going to give up now we are in the top four we have got a great team and we can go all the way. I think with the team we have got and the manager [Sam Allardyce], the way he is playing and coaching everyone, it is fantastic and I don't think we will be giving up at all."

Rio Ferdinand insists he remains happy at QPR despite being left on the bench for recent games. The 36-year-old central defender signed a one-year contract with Rangers in the summer after leaving Manchester United. However, fitness and a Football Association ban for Twitter comments mean he has not featured for QPR since the 2-0 defeat at West Ham on October 5.

Roma coach Rudi Garcia has denied rumours that Ashley Cole may be set to quit the club in January to play in Major League Soccer in the United States. Cole last played for Roma in the 2-1 win against Atalanta last month and it has been rumoured the former Chelsea defender is considering his options after failing to secure a first-team place under Garcia. Former England international Cole was run ragged by Arjen Robben during a 7-1 Champions League drubbing to Bayern Munich in October and since then has played second fiddle to Greece international Jose Holebas.